Return to News 2020

Rotary rewards litter Wombles

Community Service Award for South Leicestershire Litter Wombles

Five members of the South Leicestershire Wombles were present at a public meeting hosted by Leicester Novus Rotary Club to hear a presentation by helicopter pilot John Nowell about why he set up the charity Helipads For Hospitals and then be surprised to receive an award from the club.

President Maya Vansia referred to the 36,000 cans the Wombles had donated to the charity since November 2019 and the thousands of bags of litter the group had picked from roadsides, parks and hedgerows across Leicestershire.

Maya said: “It is for that, as much as for their wonderful support of Helipads For Hospitals, that the Rotary Club of Leicester Novus unanimously voted to award the whole organisation this certificate acknowledging their exceptional service to the Community.”

Wombles Les and June McWatt and Chris Harris and Geoff Walker and Bob Lee receive their award from Novus Rotary president Maya Vansia

Wombles founder Bob Lee explained how his annoyance at litter led to the formation of the group and how others shared his distress at seeing so much litter.

During his talk, John Nowell said that the UK currently has a fleet of 42 charity-funded air ambulances covering everywhere in the UK, but that a survey by the Association of Air Ambulances found that many hospitals with Accident and Emergency departments do not have a helipad on site — despite the inquiry into the Kegworth air disaster 30 years ago recommending that every A&E should have its own helipad.

He said that in the UK 50 million aluminium cans are thrown away each year.Far too many end up as litter, as the South Leicestershire Litter Wombles know only too well.

In the questions-and-answers session after his talk and the presentation to the Wombles by Maya, John explained that about one million cans will be needed for each helipad. About a quarter of that number has been donated in the last 18 months.

He referred to the need for Big Red Bins in public places in which cans can be left. One installed at Stamford, Lincolnshire, had been emptied four times since mid January 2020. The bins contain one-tonne builders’ bags which can hold about 3,000 crushed cans and about 1,000 cans which have not been crushed.

Novus Rotary’s Foundation Officer Frazer Robson told the meeting that four Rotary clubs — Lincoln Colonia, Sleaford, Sleaford Kesteven and Leicester Novus — are applying for grants from the Rotary Foundation, the world’s largest charity, for a matching grant. So each £600 Big Red Bin will actually need ‘on the ground’ funding of £300.

There are already five bins in Sleaford and one at Shepshed, financed by Rotary clubs.

Locations of all donation points will soon be published on the Helipads For Hospitals website.

Anyone wanting to help Leicester Novus support the charity is asked to e-mail

Last edited: 10:45 on 10.03.2020